The NFL is always in the news, even three months before the beginning of the season. The latest news was that wide receiver Marcus Robinson retired as a Chicago Bear. When a football player does this, it means he signs a ceremonial one-day contract, usually with the team where he had his greatest success. Usually there's a press conference, the owner says some nice things about his career, and maybe they play a clip of his career highlights.
In the case of Marcus Robinson, I'm not sure what those highlights were. Under "Career Highlights and Awards", Robinson's Wikipedia entry lists "No notable achievements". I'm sure he's a nice guy, but Marcus Robinson is the worst player I've ever heard of that still did the "retiring as..." routine.
Not that signing a ceremonial contract isn't ridiculous even when great players do it. Jerry Rice hadn't played football for almost two years when he retired as a 49er in 2006. Fans might have thought, "Didn't Jerry Rice retire from football a year earlier? Wasn't he on Dancing With the Stars last year, not a football team?"
Yes, but he retired as a 49er. Perhaps Rice hoped that when people reviewed his career, they wouldn't talk about his sucky final year on the Raiders, or the time he spent as the Seahawks' fourth receiver in 2004, or his aborted tryout with the Broncos in 2005. Instead, it would be like he never left the 49ers in the first place.
If Rice had signed his ceremonial contract with the 49ers this offseason, they would have found a way to screw it up. The contract would have carried a pro-rated signing bonus that landed the team in salary cap hell three years later. Old owner Eddie DeBartolo would have given Rice a new car and a plasma TV that mysteriously fell off a truck. Giants GM Brian Sabean would have made it a three-year ceremonial contract and given Rice a no-trade clause.
I wish this were possible with other parts of life. On the eve of closing escrow on my first home, I would go back to my shitty college apartment and sign a one-hour lease. Or two weeks before getting married, I would go back to an girlfriend for a ceremonial handjob.
Could regular people ceremonially retire with NFL teams? If it's a fake contract anyway, I'm sure there are guys out there who would pay large sums of money in order to hold a retirement press conference at a real NFL facility. It could be a great promotion: the first 500 fans at the home opener get to retire as 49ers. They get to take a photo with the team owner, and receive 1/3650th of a full NFL pension. Of course, this wouldn't work in the NBA, as ceremonially retired fans would be in danger of being shipped to the Memphis Grizzlies in lopsided trades. And because of NBA trade rules, some fans would have to wait until July 1st, and re-retire then.
What if I offered 49ers owner Dr. York $1,000 for the privilege? I bet the cheap bastard would take me up on it. After all, I'm as likely as Marcus Robinson is to catch a pass for the 49ers this year.